350 people asked for their contact tracing data to be deleted in the past month: Vivian Balakrishnan

SINGAPORE – In the last month, 350 people have asked for their contact tracing data to be erased from the Government’s server, said Minister-in-charge of the Smart Nation Initiative Vivian Balakrishnan, following concerns that the police can obtain contact tracing data for criminal investigations.

But he added that in the same period, over 390,000 have signed up to be part of the national contact tracing programme TraceTogether. So far, more than 80 per cent of the population have either downloaded the TraceTogether app or collected the token.

Dr Balakrishnan, who is also Foreign Minister, was speaking in Parliament on Tuesday (Feb 2) during the debate on the Covid-19 (Temporary Measures) (Amendment) Bill to restrict the police’s powers over data collected by the TraceTogether, SafeEntry and Bluepass programmes.

TraceTogether allows users to request their identification data to be deleted from the Government’s server unless they are confirmed Covid-19 cases and their proximity data – or information about people near them – has already been uploaded to the server.

When the request is received and can be acceded to, the Government will delete the user’s contact or mobile number, identification details and random user ID from its server.

Dr Balakrishnan revealed the 350 figure to address concerns about public trust and participation in TraceTogether, but added that it was a “source of regret” that these users had asked for their data to be deleted.

“Every one of that 350 who has requested us to delete is a source of regret for me because at least 350 have, for a variety of reasons, decided to forgo the protection that TraceTogether offers them and their loved ones,” he said.

But the minister added that the more than 390,000 who have joined the programme in the same period showed that Singaporeans trust that the TraceTogether system is safe.

Minister of State for Home Affairs Desmond Tan had revealed on Jan 4 that under the Criminal Procedure Code, the police can obtain any data under Singapore’s jurisdiction for criminal investigations, including TraceTogether data.

This caused a public outcry as it appeared to contradict statements the Government had made last year that TraceTogether data would be used only for contact tracing to tackle the pandemic, with some users raising privacy concerns.

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